With effect from tomorrow, June 15, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine will no longer hold the post of Minister of Education.
The long-time politician and co-leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has according to an announcement from Minister of State Joseph Harmon been reassigned to the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP).
“The President…briefed cabinet that he had a discussion with Dr Roopnaraine and after that discussion it was agreed that Dr Roopnaraine would be reassigned from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of the Presidency with specific responsibility for the public service,” Harmon said in a video release.
He further explained that Roopnaraine will remain a member of Cabinet and of the National Assembly.
Additionally, a Department is to be created within the Ministry to oversee innovation and reform in the education sector. This department will be supervised by President Granger.
Minister Nicolette Henry whose substantive post is Minister within the Ministry of Education will according to Harmon “continue to perform the functions of the office of Minister of Education until further notice.”
Henry’s promotion has raised eyebrows as her performance to date has been lacklustre and error-strewn. Sources say that Roopnaraine had not been well-enough to perform the onerous functions associated with his portfolio. He had had a number of medical emergencies over the last two years.
Meanwhile, the WPA for whom Roopnaraine is the sole representative at Cabinet and in the National Assembly is expressing concern about the manner in which the decision was made. Executive member of the WPA Dr David Hinds told Stabroek News yesterday that the party was only informed of the decision to reassign Roopnaraine on Monday.
“The party got a call from the Office of the President (MoTP) on Monday inviting us to a meeting. At that meeting our representative Desmond Trotman was informed of the decision to reshuffle Dr Roopnaraine,” he said.
Hinds noted that the party executives yesterday met at an emergency meeting where it was decided to request a meeting with the President so that certain difficulties which the party is having with the issue could be addressed.
“We have some difficulty with the manner in which the issue was handled… one such an important matter we should have been consulted before a decision was made,” Hinds explained. He noted that while this is only one of the party’s concerns it is the concern they are willing to release at this time.
Asked what reason was offered for the decision, Hinds said that he preferred the President to make public the reason behind his decisions.
The 74-year-old, Roopnaraine has been visibly ill for at least a year with reports reaching this newspaper that his illness has been so severe that he is often absent from his office greatly stymieing the ability of the ministry to function on a day-to-day basis. Repeated attempts to reach Minister Roopnaraine for comment on the decision proved futile.
This is the fourth time that President Granger has reassigned the duties of members of his Cabinet.
During 2016, Minister Catherine Hughes was appointed Minister of Public Telecommunications while the Ministry of Governance and the Protection of the National Patrimony were delinked and the latter renamed the Ministry of Natural Resources and assigned to Minister Raphael Trotman. The functions of the Ministry of Governance were then added to the portfolio of Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo.
Minister Simona Broomes was also shifted from the Ministry of Social Protection to the Ministry of Natural Resources, while Minister Keith Scott was moved to the Ministry of Social Protection from the Ministry of Communities and was tasked with responsibility for Labour. Minister Valerie Sharpe-Patterson was subsequently named Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing.
Additionally Minister Volda Lawrence was earlier this year moved from the Ministry of Social Protection to the Ministry of Public Health while Minister Amna Ally was moved from the Ministry of Social Cohesion to the Ministry of Social Protection. Former Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton was reassigned to the post of Minister of Social Cohesion, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency.